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Barickman: State budget deficit can kicked down the road

Charlie Schlenker
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, said his prediction of little significant action from the spring legislative session came true.

State Sen. Jason Barickman said early in the spring legislative session he expected very little productivity coming out of it. And now Barickman said his expectations have been fulfilled.

It's an election year. Very little that's big gets done in an election year. Nobody wants to make themselves a target by doing something hard. And that includes addressing the generation-long structural budget deficit.

Federal pandemic relief aid made that less urgent this year, but the Bloomington Republican said that won't last.

"Moving forward, the unfunded pension liability, I think we made a modest improvement in that. But we in no way changed the trajectory of that program itself. Medicaid expenses have continued to balloon. One of the big criticisms I have about this year is that for all of the short-term revenue the state received, we seem to have embraced a much more significant amount of spending, and the spending isn't going to be a one time shot. I don't think we're really going to fully appreciate how significant this year is, until probably two fiscal years from now, when all those federal funds are done. I think it's going to be a day of reckoning again, for Illinois," said Barickman.

Barickman said there's little sign there will be appetite to address the budget imbalance next year either. He made the prediction because he said no candidate for governor in either party is talking budget in their campaign.

"The discussions are on crime, public safety, corruption, maybe education, which suggests that whoever wins for Governor isn't going to come into office day one with an agenda of doing something meaningful there," said Barickman.

Barickman also said he's frustrated there was little meaningful action on anti-crime legislation, referencing last year's Democratic party backed SAFE-T Act.

"The result of the law they put in place is that criminals feel as though they are less accountable to the public. You see this in the looting that has existed in some of the retail stores all around the country and even in Bloomington-Normal," said Barickman.

Campaign commercials are already running that show Republicans all over the state are focusing on crime as a key issue in the fall. But the SAFE-T Act does not affect what Barickman referred to in other states and the measure passed after the looting that was related to race and police incidents nationwide. The timeline indicated the act couldn't have directly influenced the opinion of looters.

"I think criminals do feel that way. And I think if you look at the data that has existed since that change in law you see a bad trend there. I agree there are many ingredients in the cookie dough, but one of them is this change in law," said Barickman.

He said prosecutors and law enforcement assert the law will reduce the ability of the legal system to hold people while their charges are pending, putting the public at risk.

"There's an inability to hold someone who does not pose a specific threat to an identifiable party. What that means is that if someone kills someone else, for some specific reason, prosecutors are saying we can't hold the person who killed the individual, because they were only a threat to someone who is now dead. That's an absurd situation in the law," said Barickman

Supporters of the measure have asserted judges are unlikely to interpret the law that way in the case of a homicide. Barickman said some judges may be more sympathetic to the defense.

"Well, I don't want to be the one accountable if it is. That certainly seems like a shift that could have unintended results, and potentially a bad outcome," said Barickman.

Many provisions of the SAFE-T Act, however, have yet to go into effect. And crime has gone up in other states as well, despite Barickman's assertion of a correlation between rising crime in Illinois and passage of the measure.

Republicans aren't the only ones planning to use crime during the campaign leading to the November election. Democrats touted bills passed this spring they said will lower crime rates. Barickman said one such measure to prevent a carjacked vehicle owner from being charged for traffic offenses committed by the thief is just common sense. He voted for it, but said it doesn't do anything to reduce carjacking.

He said that and other bills are attempts by Democrats to inoculate their candidates from the crime issue in November.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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